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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 10:14 GMT
African peace trip bears little fruit
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Hubert Vedrine, Jack Straw
The trip served to strengthen Anglo-French co-operation
The French and British foreign ministers have been visiting Uganda on the last stage of their joint peace mission to central Africa, aimed at bringing an end to the Congolese civil war.

But the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Bridget Kendall, says despite a series of frank discussions with leaders in the region, there has been little sign that the mission has achieved any breakthrough.

During their visit to Kampala, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine had talks with President Yoweri Museveni and also met Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the main Ugandan-backed rebel group in the Congo.

We're not coming because it's easy or because the problems are being solved

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine

After visiting Congo and Rwanda, the two ministers were expected to press President Museveni on the recent increase of Ugandan troops occupying north-eastern Congo and allegations of involvement in the plundering of national resources in the Congo.

They were also thought to urge the need for a speedy withdrawal.

"We're not coming because it's easy or because the problems are being solved. We're coming because we're both very involved in Africa and this conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa's biggest conflict," Mr Vedrine told the BBC.

"So we are trying to do two things at the same time; strengthen Anglo-French co-operation and apply this Anglo-French initiative to the conflict that needs it the most."

Little progress

Earlier the two ministers admitted they had made no progress in trying to persuade the presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to make the first gesture of disarmament needed to break the deadlock in the three-year civil war.

Displaced child in volcano region
The West is providing volcano aid in rebel-held eastern DR Congo

However, both British and French officials remain optimistic that they are laying the groundwork for progress.

The war in DR Congo is Africa's biggest conflict and has left two million people dead and the country overrun and plundered by occupying forces involving at least six countries.

Traditionally France and Britain have been seen as colonial competitors in DR Congo, with Britain remaining more sympathetic to Rwanda and France backing the DR Congo Government.

Despite the differences the two countries are now keen to pool their influence.


On the first leg of their trip to the central African region, when they met Congolese President Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, Mr Straw said he hoped the volcano disaster might help break the logjam.

On the second leg of their trip, to Rwanda, they had planned to meet the head of Oxfam and other disaster agencies operating there to assess what else is needed around Goma.

They had also been hoping to persuade Rwanda's president and the Rwandan-backed rebel leader from eastern DR Congo to disarm and withdraw troops as a move towards peace.

But Rwanda's president insisted that while the Hutus threatened his country's stability and were not repatriated, Rwanda could not be expected to withdraw its own troops.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"It was all about trying to break the deadlock in the long running war"
Jack Straw, British Foreign Minister
"This is the world's greatest conflict"

Congo volcano
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See also:

22 Jan 02 | Europe
Analysis: Allies in Africa
21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
More cash for Congo hint
20 Jan 02 | Africa
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